Invention is most often thought of as the “creation of a new idea or concept.” Innovation, meanwhile, commercializes the invention for widespread use. The United States has often led the world in high-tech invention, but it is our innovation that has given our economy its competitive edge. The economic doldrums of the past three years have dampened innovation, to be sure. But make no mistake: IT innovation is alive and well.
John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC, and a colleague of mine at IDG, our parent company, is fond of claiming that the tech invention and innovation cycle goes in 15 year waves. Inventors at Apple and elsewhere created versions of the PC in the mid-1970s, and in 1980, the popular era of the PC dawned. Fifteen years of innovation incorporating local area networks, the Windows operating system and client/server computing into corporations followed. With these innovations came increasing worker productivity that enhanced U.S. competitiveness.
The most recent big bang of innovation began around 1995, when Marc Andreessen took the Web browser he invented and started Netscape, ushering in the Internet innovation era. Corporations and CIOs embraced the Internet to build out grandiose intranets with plans to extend them to trading partners via the Web. Then the bubble burst, and the Internet innovation era appeared to fizzle. But there’s little doubt that the Web conferred an advantage in the marketplace for companies that innovated successfully.
Now there’s evidence that Internet-based innovation is ramping up again. In the monthly CIO Magazine Tech Poll last October, CIOs reported that 23.8 percent of all their purchases would be made online in the coming year, which was a three-year high. The poll also found that nearly half of all corporations have a significant application backlog. There’s plenty of work to be done, and it isn’t on maintenance or incremental upgrades to existing systems.
When I recently asked a CIO of a Fortune 1000 corporation about the most innovative project he has planned for the coming year, he turned to the strategic plan he wrote in 2000.
IT innovation may have taken a three-year breather, but CIOs have plenty of unfinished business. Tech innovation will thrive once again as CIOs go back on the offensive, pursuing more and better ways to drive revenue.
Are you launching your next cycle of innovation? Which emerging technology will change how you do business? Send me your comments at email@example.com.